What does it actually mean to Detox? In medical terms it means removing poisons or the build-up of toxic substances, when large amounts have been consumed or have come into the body through inhalation or skin exposure. Medical intervention is only used when the amount or type of substance is such that our body’s natural detoxification systems are unable to clear it. Some examples include opioid drugs (heroin) and alcohol.
What Are Toxins?
Toxins can be from both internal and external sources.
Internal Sources // The by-products from usual physiological processes and cells’ waste products. The process of breaking down food components to produce energy uses oxygen, this results in unstable molecules called free radicals. These molecules must be neutralised or converted to avoid build-up to toxic levels.
External Sources // Toxins can come from food and beverage-related compounds — molecules resulting from baking, deep-frying and chargrilling, along with alcohol and additives in processed foods. Let’s not forget medication, tobacco smoke and exposure to environmental pollutants.
Xenobiotics // These are toxins from external sources, these are fat-soluble and can accumulate in fatty tissue within our bodies. Exposure to these has considerably increased with modern lifestyles because of industrial waste contaminating soil and water and, in turn, agriculture products and seafood.
Agriculture Practices // Use a variety of chemicals, resulting in residues in food products along with cosmetics, body care products, the plastic used in food and beverage packaging, all increase our daily exposure to a smorgasbord of chemicals.
Chemicals // Added to fabrics and mattresses (flame retardants and PFCs) non-stick pans (PFCs), plastic bottles (BPA and styrene), and our food (pesticides). These chemicals are linked to cancer (breast and prostate) reproductive disorders, thyroid conditions, childhood asthma and behavioural issues (ADHD), the list continues with other carcinogenic and endocrine-related health issues due to exposure to said chemical toxins.
What are we doing wrong?
According to Bruce Lourie the Co-Author (Rick Smith) of the book Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals out of our Bodies and Our World. “The synthetic chemicals we need to worry about are called lipophilic—that means they are attracted to fat. So if we are eating fatty meats or cheeses, the pesticides and other fat soluble chemicals in our environment will be concentrated in the fat. So we will be ingesting more harmful chemicals. Second, if we consume fatty foods, there is a good chance we will store more fat in our bodies. And guess what that means—more places for the fat-loving chemicals to build up in”.
A diet rich in processed foods, simply put, is lacking in ‘real foods’ think vegetables and fruits. Vegetables are low in fat, high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which is important for detox, and contain the all important antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins essential for our health and to support our internal detox systems.
Read about the importance of Nutrient Dense Foods.
Our built in detoxification system comprises of our liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, blood, skin, lungs, and colon all work together every day to flush these things out—but the majority of us, due to lifestyle choices, could use a little extra help.
The liver has over 500 functions, metabolises and detoxifies any dietary constituents (including caffeine or herbal teas and supplements) and any external toxins entering the body from a variety of exposure.
Our bodies convert fat-soluble compounds into water-soluble compounds and facilitates the transportation of the converted products out of the cells, then out of the body via the bile and faeces, or urine.
Antioxidant enzymes keep control over the free radicals our bodies naturally produce through the process of breaking down food components.
The liver is our main detox organ however most tissues in the body also participate in detoxification. Vitamins and minerals in food are crucial for the optimal function of detoxification pathways and the function of enzymes.
What Are We Doing Wrong?
You can argue that our bodies are purging these toxins all the time through our own natural detox process, therefore a ‘Detox regime or period’ is unnecessary. How can a short term ‘detox’ erase the effects of weeks, months or perhaps years of bad lifestyle choices and exposure to external toxins. You can also argue that we have only been exposed to such toxins in ‘modern day life’ since the 1950’s, how can our bodies cope with such a rapid change in our lifestyles and exposure to environmental stressors in such a short space or time – relatively speaking in the time-line of the human species existence; have we had time to evolve, to adapt?
Is one that limits processed, high-fat, and sugary foods, and replaces them with more whole foods like vegetables and fruits. This approach provides the right ingredients for optimal function daily, rather than opting for a quick-fix detox, then returning to an unhealthy, non sustainable lifestyle; this will eventually lead to health issues — physical and mental ailments such as chronic fatigue, headaches, insomnia, food and chemical sensitivities, and even disease.
A detox lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. The things that enhance our general well-being are essentially the very same things that help our bodies naturally detox:
- Eat more vegetables and less meat and dairy — to increase fiber and avoid animal fat
- Choose organic food — To avoid cancer-causing pesticides and increase your intake of antioxidant rich foods
- Drink lots of fresh filtered water — To promote the movement of toxins through and out of your body
- Buy natural and organic personal care and household products — Which are sustainable and biodegradable, always read the labels
- Adequate sleep — Will allow your body to recover and spend more time healing and repairing. Try to allow yourself the opportunity to get 8-9 hours sleep Read How to Create a Sleep Routine- that works!
- Sweat several times a week — By exercising regularly remember a 20 minute work-out is doable
- Get bouncing — The motion of jumping up and down specifically stimulates the lymphatic system and assists in the transport, processing, and elimination of waste, hello mini trampoline
- Have a regular sauna — A sauna helps to eliminate certain chemicals which come out of our sweat more readily than our urine, the other main water-based detox system we have. Sweating in a sauna is also good for your skin.
ADD THESE FIVE KEY PHYTONUTRIENTS TO YOUR DAILY DIET
Incorporating these phytonutrients into your diet is a great way to support and boost your body’s natural detoxification systems:
- CURCUMIN // The active compound found in – turmeric root. DETOXING POWER: Curcumin is an antioxidant that binds to heavy metals in the body, fights inflammation from toxins, and increases the production of enzymes responsible for detoxification. It has also been shown to have cancer preventative activities in human studies. EAT: Add to a curry, sprinkle turmeric in your salad dressing, cauliflower rice, stir-fries, or scramble it with your eggs. DRINK: Don’t forget your Turmeric Latte!
- EGCG // This phytonutrient is found in green tea. DETOXING POWER: Triggers increased production of certain genes and enzymes responsible for detoxification. The compound is also a powerful antioxidant and boasts anti-inflammatory activities. DRINK: Green Tea steeping for at least 5 minutes.
- FLAVONNOIDS // Compounds are found in – Corriander, parsley, onions, apples, oranges, and blueberries. DETOXING POWER: Antioxidants bind to heavy metals in the body, and aid in their removal from the body through urine. EAT: vegetables and fruits raw or lightly steamed (cooking drastically reduces the bioavailability of the compounds)
- ORGANOSULFUR COMPOUNDS // Foods containing sulfur – Onion, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and bok choy are all rich sources of organosulfur compounds. DETOXING POWER: These antioxidant-rich phytonutrients reduce inflammation, bind to and aid in the excretion of heavy metals, and boost the production of detoxifying enzymes. Defend the body against cancer-causing agents. They also protect the liver and reproductive system from toxic invaders. EAT: Garlic is one of the richest sources of organosulfur compounds. Dicing or crushing garlic is the best way to release these compounds – let the garlic sit for ten minutes after slicing and before cooking, as heat may inactive the healthy organosulfur compounds.
- QUERCETIN // Found in – Citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, nuts, tea, and dark berries (blueberries, blackberries). DETOXING POWER: A powerful anti-inflammatory compound and antioxidant that binds to heavy metals to facilitate their removal from the body. It also boosts the enzymes responsible for detoxification. EAT: This compound is generally in the skin of fruits and vegetables. Try to include as much of plant’s outer layer in your cooking as you can. Only remove the outer skin from onions, don’t peel your organic apples, wash them first, and add some citrus zest (shredded bits of the peel) to your food
If you adopt a lifestyle where you consume mostly un-processed foods, drink alcohol in moderation, remain hydrated, and exercise regally, you are guaranteed to have fewer toxins in your body while enhancing your overall health. Keeping things in perspective is important, get clear on what nourishes, replenishes, and supports our whole self, simply put make more, healthy, choices daily and enjoy your indulgences in moderation.
Until next time
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- Book // Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals out of our Bodies and Our World. Bruce Lourie & Rick Smith
About the Book
- Do you really need a detox?